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Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business
Volume 18
Issue 2 Winter
Winter 1997
The Problem of Corruption: A Tale of Two
Countries
Kimberly Ann Elliott
Follow this and additional works at: http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/njilb
Part of the Criminal Law Commons, and the Securities Law Commons
Recommended Citation
Kimberly Ann Elliott, The Problem of Corruption: A Tale of Two Countries, 18 Nw. J. Int'l L. & Bus. 524 (1997-1998)
This Perspective is brought to you for free and open access by Northwestern University School of Law Scholarly Commons. It has been accepted for
inclusion in Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business by an authorized administrator of Northwestern University School of Law Scholarly
Commons.
The Problem of Corruption: A Tale of
Two Countries
Kimberly Ann Elliott*
Corruption has long been with us, but it is only recently that corruption
has become an important topic of international concern and policy debate.
It is still primarily a problem for the countries in which it occurs, as the citizens of corrupt countries are the ones who have to live with stagnant
economies, inadequate physical and social infrastructure, and poorly functioning political systems. However, pervasive corruption that undermines
economic development and political stability can also be a threat to international peace and prosperity, as well as facilitating drug-trafficking, money
laundering, and other international criminal activity. Less virulent forms of
corruption distort international trade and investment flows. Furthermore,
international corporations contribute to the problem of corruption when
they use bribes or other inducements while doing business abroad.
This perspective provides an introduction to the problem of corruption,
focusing on two questions:
* What causes corruption?
* Where is corruption most serious?
The perspective concludes with a brief discussion of two countries Kenya and Uganda - that seem to be going in opposite directions politically and economically, as well as in their attitudes toward corruption.
. Kimberly Ann Elliott is a Research Fellow at the Institute for International Economics
THE GLOBAL ECONOMY. The views herein are the author's
and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute's Board of Directors or Advisory
Committee.
and editor of CORRUPTION AND
The Problem of Corruption: A Tale of Two Countries
18:524 (1998)
I. WHAT CONDITIONS ALLOW CORRUPTION TO FLOURISH?
Robert Klitgaard has summarized the key ingredients of corruption in
the following simplified formula:
Corruption = Monopoly + Discretion - Accountability'
In other words, opportunities to engage in corruption increase with the
degree of control government officials and politicians have over goods,
services, or other assets valued by the private sector and with the degree of
discretion the officials and politicians have in allocating those things.
These assets can be import licenses, government procurement contracts,
subsidized commodities, or tax assessments. Opportunities for corruption
decrease when policy-making is transparent (so that the reasons behind particular decisions are clear) and officials can be held accountable for their
actions.
All else being equal, countries with relatively open, market-oriented
economies would be expected to suffer from relatively less corruption than
countries with more closed, more heavily regulated economies. The effect
of political systems on corruption is more complex. Strong authoritarian
leaders opposed to corruption would have the means at their disposal to
control corruption, regardless of the degree of monopoly in the system, because they could impose accountability, violently if necessary. On the other
hand, authoritarian leaders more disposed to a life of luxury can drain a
country dry, as former President Mobutu Sese Seko did in Zaire. Whether
authoritarian regimes end up with more or less corruption depends entirely
on the whims of their leaders.
Democratic regimes are not immune to corruption, but they do have
strengths that allow them to contain if not eliminate it. Policy-making processes tend to be more transparent in democratic systems, making it more
difficult to hide malfeasance. In democracies, politicians are also ultimately
accountable to voters who can vote them out of office if they are caught
sacrificing the public interest in favor of their own. For these reasons, blatant forms of corruption, such as bribery, tend to be relatively rarer in democracies where "corruption" is likely to take on more subtle forms of
influence peddling.2
Cross-country analysis of evidence on corruption levels, the role of the
state in the economy, and the openness of the political system appear to
IROBERT KLITGAARD, CONTROLLING CORRUPTION 75 (1988); see also Susan RoseAckerman, The Political Economy of Corruption, in CORRUPTION AND THE GLOBAL
ECONOMY at 31 (Kimberly Ann Elliott ed., 1997) [hereinafter CORRUPTION AND THE GLOBAL
ECONOMY].
2
For a discussion of the political sources, consequences, and types of corruption, see Michael Johnston, Public Officials, PrivateInterests, and SustainableDemocracy: When Politics and CorruptionMeet, in CORRUPTION AND THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, supra note 1, at 61.
Northwestern Journal of
International Law & Business
18:524 (1998)
support these hypotheses. 3 Statistical correlation coefficients, which measure the degree to which two data series move together, suggest that higher
levels of corruption are positively, if weakly, correlated with the share of
non-agricultural GDP accounted for by state-owned enterprises and negatively correlated with the share of international trade in the economy (exports plus imports of goods and services divided by GDP).4 Statistically,
there is a much stronger, negative correlation between higher levels of corruption and a qualitative measure of economic "freedom" developed by
Freedom House (a non-profit organization that tracks economic and political freedom around the world). This subjective index purports to measure
the freedom to hold property, earn a living, operate a business, invest one's
earnings, and trade internationally.5
Freedom House also scores governments on the extent to which they
permit and protect political rights and civil liberties.6 This index captures
some elements of transparency (media freedom) and accountability (the degree to which citizens are allowed to express their opinions through protest
and the ballot box). As expected, there is a strong negative correlation between corruption and the Freedom House index of political openness,
though the relationship is not quite as strong as that between corruption and
economic openness.7
H. WHERE DOES CORRUPTION FLOURISH?
Moving beyond general relationships, it is useful to examine more
closely the evidence on relative levels of corruption, and particularly where
corruption seems to generate the most problems. One helpful piece of evidence on this is the Transparency International (TI) index of corruption. TI
is a Berlin-based non-governmental organization established in 1993 to
combat corruption around the world. For the past three years, TI has released a "survey of surveys" compiled by Professor Johann Graff
Lambsdorff, which ranks countries according to how corrupt they are perceived to be by businesspeople.8 Table 1 lists the most and least corrupt of
3
These statistical relationships and the sources for the data used are discussed in more
detail in Kimberly Ann Elliott, Corruptionas an InternationalPolicy Problem: Overview
and4 Recommendations, in CORRUPTION AND THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, supra note 1, at 175.
The simplest measure of the role of the state in an economy, the share of central government expenditure in GDP, turns out to have the opposite of the expected relationship with
corruption: countries with a relatively high proportion of government spending are typically
less corrupt than otherwise. This suggests that the ways in which governments intervene in
economies are more important than simply their size.
5
6
See FREEDOM HOUSE, WORLD SURVEY OF ECONOMIC FREEDOM 1995-96 (1996).
See FREEDOM HOUSE, FREEDOM IN THE WORLD: THE ANNUAL SURVEY OF POLITICAL
RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES, 1995-96 (1996) (data was extracted from this source and used
in calculations
by the author).
7
id.
sTransparency International, 1996 Corruption Ranking (visited Apr. 2,
<http://www.gwdg.de/-uwvw/ier.htmo>.
1998)
The Problem of Corruption: A Tale of Two Countries
18:524 (1998)
the fifty-four countries included in TI's 1996 survey, which scores countries
from 0 for the worst to 10 for the best. 9
The table shows that the Nordic countries, New Zealand, Canada, and
several other European countries are perceived as the least corrupt countries
in the survey. Singapore is the only non-OECD country on the "least corrupt" list. The United States and Japan follow closely after Germany, with
France and Belgium further behind. At 34th place, Italy is the lowest
ranked European Union member. The countries perceived as most corrupt
in the TI sample are developing countries and economies in transition, such
as Russia and China. Thus, the corruption rankings suggest that relatively
more developed and richer countries are perceived to be less corrupt than
poorer, less developed ones. Figure 1 shows the results for all fifty-four
countries in the TI sample.
There are a number of reasons that developing countries might be more
vulnerable to corruption and that corruption, in turn, might help to keep
them poor. Low public-sector wages are frequently cited as a source of corruption in less-developed countries.'0 Poverty is also often accompanied by
illiteracy, which may make it easier for relatively more literate bureaucrats
to exploit their constituents. In addition to inadequate pay and illiteracy,
other factors identified in a cross-country study of seven developing countries in East Asia were:
* inadequate management controls and lack of adequate technology
for monitoring,
* poor recruitment and selection procedures (including nepotism),
* poor working conditions and facilities,
* lack of public information, and
* generally inadequate capacity to meet the demand for government
services. 1
Social attitudes toward government institutions also have an important
impact on corruption. Colin Leys has argued that "new [post-colonial]
states" were particularly vulnerable to corruption because "[t]he idea of the
national interest is weak... [and] the 'state' and its organs were identified
with alien rule and were proper objects of plunder." 12 Corruption is also
9
The 1996 index is discussed here because the 1997 index dropped Kenya and Uganda
due to a lack of data.
10 See Nadeem UI Haque & Ratna Sahay, Do Government Wage Cuts Close Budget Defi-
cits? The Costs ofCorruption,IMF STAFF PAPERS, Dec. 1996, at 761.
1'Rance P.L. Lee, Bureaucratic Corruptionin Asia: The Problem ofIncongruence Between Legal Norms and Folk Norms, in BUREAUCRATIC CORRUPTION IN ASIA: CAUSES,
CONSEQUENCES AND CONTROL
69, 101-03 (Ledivina V. Carifio ed., 1986); Ma. Concepcion
P. Alfiler, The Process of Bureaucratic Corruption in Asia: Emerging Patterns, in
BUREAUCRATIC CORRUPTION IN ASIA: CAUSES, CONSEQUENCES AND CONTROLS, supra, 15,
66.
12Colin Leys, What is the Problem about Corruption?,3 J. MOD. AFR. STUD. 215, 224
(1965).
Northwestern Journal of
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18:524 (1998)
easier to conceal where the rules are unclear, the commitment to the rules is
weak, or the institutions responsible for enforcement themselves are weak
(the police and judiciary, in particular). It may be that these factors put in
motion a vicious circle whereby initial - supposedly transitional - conditions facilitate corruption, which further undermines the state's legitimacy,
undermines capacity and foments yet more corruption. This cycle could
help explain why many "new" states suffer from pervasive corruption thirty
years or more after independence.
III. A TALE OF TWO COUNTRIES
In sum, corruption arises primarily from restricted competition on the
one hand, and weak political, social, and administrative institutions on the
other. Corruption at high levels of government increases the cost of government, distorts the allocation of government spending, and can lower the
quality of infrastructure. Even relatively petty or routine corruption can deprive the government of revenues, distort economic decision-making, foster
or reinforce distrust of government, and impose negative externalities on
society, such as dirty air, dirty water, or unsafe buildings. At its most severe, when it is pervasive and uncontrolled, corruption thwarts economic
development and undermines political legitimacy.
These effects, and the difficulties in reversing them, are illustrated in
two countries in eastern Africa that are moving in opposite directions. Both
Kenya and Uganda appear in Table 1 as among the most corrupt, with
Kenya ranked as the third most corrupt of the fifty-four countries analyzed
by TI in 1996. According to historical data, however (appended by TI to its
1996 rankings), Uganda would have been the third most corrupt of these
fifty-four countries in the early 1980s while Kenya would not even have
appeared as among the most corrupt based on the definition used in Table
1.
Since 1986, when he came to power in Uganda, President Yoweri
Museveni has adopted wide-ranging economic reforms, including vigorous
14
anti-corruption policies and somewhat less far-reaching political reforms.
In addition to adopting macroeconomic and other structural adjustment
policies to bring down inflation and increase growth, the Ugandan government has also tried to bring greater transparency and accountability to the
government by reactivating the Office of the Auditor General and by establishing an Office of Inspectorate General of Government to investigate corruption.' 5 The Museveni government has also encouraged the strengthening
3
Countries are listed as most or least corrupt in Table I if they are more than one standard deviation above or below the mean of the sample.
4
For example, political parties are still banned and intimidation of the opposition and
critical media still occurs.
15Augustine Ruzindana, The Importance of Leadership in Fighting Corruption in
Uganda, in CORRUPTION AND THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, supra note 1, at 133, 139.
The Problem of Corruption: A Tale of Two Countries
18:524 (1998)
of civil society by promoting the formation of grassroots groups representing different elements of society and allowing greater freedom of the press
6
(though tacit limits remain on the freedom to criticize the government).
Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi, on the other hand, has been more
resistant to political reforms and has done little to combat rampant corruption. In the early 1990s, for example, a fraudulent export incentive scheme,
for a company trading gold and diamonds that Kenya does not even produce, cost the government $400 million in public funds. 17 A senior government minister is suspected in the matter, but has not been investigated
and there has been no attempt to date to recover the funds. 18 Earlier corruption in Kenya's energy sector led to a "donor allergy" toward that sector
after what one source called "a slap in the face to the donor community"
during construction of the Turkwel Gorge dam.1 9 The contract was
awarded without competitive tender and, according to a report by the European Community, "the project ended up costing many times its original, al20
ready-inflated price as a result of kickbacks paid to government officials.,
As of late 1995, the FinancialTimes reported that international donors had
which
not funded any power projects in Kenya for the previous five years,
21
had resulted in inadequate capacity and frequent power failures.
While vigorous anti-corruption efforts in Uganda have not solved all
its problems by any means, and while corruption is not the only problem
plaguing Kenya today, these differing attitudes toward corruption have
contributed to noticeably different economic trends in recent years and differential treatment of the two countries by investors and by the international
financial community. Though still a desperately poor country, Uganda's
economy grew by an average 6.6% annually between 1990 and 1995, one of
the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa.22 Uganda is beginning to attract
private investment and the rate of growth in its total domestic investment in
recent years has been well above the average for low-income countries.
Kenya, on the other hand, has stagnated in recent years, with per capita income barely growing at all. Income in Kenya is also far more skewed toward the already wealthy than income in Uganda.2 3 There is little domestic
investment in Kenya and private capital flows are leaving the country.24
16For an extensive discussion of these reforms, see Ruzindana, supra note 15, at 133-46.
17Michael Holman & Michela Wrong, Moi weighs tough corruption probe, FIN. TIMES,
July 28, 1997, at 4.
18 .1d.
19 Michela Wrong, Defiant Kenya is running out of steam, FIN. TIMES, Oct. 25, 1995, at
9.
20
Id.
21id.
'2 See Table 2 supra.
23See Table 2 supra.
24
See Table 2 supra.
Northwestern Journal of
International Law & Business
18:524 (1998)
To make matters worse, in August 1997, the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) for the first time in its history explicitly conditioned continued
lending on anti-corruption reforms and suspended lending to Kenya when
President Moi refused to take action. 25 By contrast, in April, the IMF and
World Bank rewarded Uganda's reform efforts by approving it as the first
country eligible to benefit from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC)
initiative, which will provide it with significant debt relief in coming
years.2 6
At a conference in Washington, D.C., in 1996, then Inspector General
of Government of Uganda, Augustine Ruzindana, discussed the importance
of leadership in combating corruption.2 7 But a change in attitude, however
important, is not enough. Sustaining reductions in corruption in most cases
requires fundamental economic, political, and social change, as described
by Ruzindana. 28 The most important anti-corruption steps are being taken
by those countries around the world pursuing democratization and opening
up their economies to competition. 2p In order to consolidate these gains,
however, these countries need to adopt a variety of institutional reforms, including judicial and civil service reforms and changes in the way government does business. For example, governments should conduct auctions
rather than relying on bureaucratic discretion to allocate import licenses and
other items in restricted supply. Just as important as strong leadership from
the top in combating corruption is the development and strengthening of the
institutions of civil society, including the media, non-governmental organizations, and other grassroots groups.
While these political, economic, and institutional reforms are the foundation for a sustainable anti-corruption strategy, the international community also has a role to play, as described in other articles included in this
issue. First, other industrialized countries should shoulder their share of responsibility for the problem and quickly implement the convention to
criminalize foreign bribery agreed to on November 21, 1997 in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).30 By vigorously enforcing this convention, the home countries of multinational
25
See, e.g., Michela Wrong, Test Casefor Tough Stance, FIN. TIMES, Sept. o19, 1997, at
27. 26
HIPC is ajoint initiative of the World Bank and IMF and is intended to reduce to sustainable levels the debt of highly indebted poor countries who have a track record of servicing their debt and implementing sound economic policies. See Anthony R. Boote & Kamau
Thugge, DEBT RELIEF FOR LOW-INCOME COUNTRIES: THE HiPC INITIATIVE, IMF PAMPHLET
SERIES No. 51, at 15-16 (1997) (describing the Ugandan reforms).
27Ruzindana, supra note 15, at 133.
28
1d.
29
See supra Part I.
30
The United States criminalized transnational bribery in the Foreign Corrupt Practices
Act in 1977. See David A. Gantz, GlobalizingSanctions Against Foreign Bribery: The
Emergence ofa New InternationalLegal Consensus, 18 Nw. J. INT'L L. & Bus. 282 (19978).
The Problem of Corruption: A Tale of Two Countries
18:524 (1998)
corporations will ensure that multinational corporations (MNCs) do not
contribute to the corruption problem by using bribes while conducting business abroad. Second, the OECD, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and
other international organizations should take additional steps to guard
against corruption in international business transactions. For example, the
members of the WTO should accelerate their discussions of the United
States' proposal to negotiate an agreement on transparency and due process
in government procurement.
Most importantly, multilateral, regional, and national development
agencies can provide training, technical assistance, and financial support to
encourage market-oriented policies, build capacity, and reform institutions
in countries like Uganda that are willing to undertake these difficult reforms. Withdrawal of funding and support by international organizations
and states may be necessary in some cases, such as in Kenya, but such actions are really an admission of the international community's failure to
combat corruption and hopefully such drastic measures will not often be required.
Northwestern Journal of
International Law & Business
18:524 (1998)
Table 1. A Partial Profile of Corruption around the World
1996 Transparency International Rankings(a)
"Leastcorrupt" (in
descending order)
"Most corrupt" (in
descending order)
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
54
53
52
51
50
49
48
47
46
45
44
43
42
13
New Zealand
Denmark
Sweden
Finland
Canada
Norway
Singapore
Switzerland
Netherlands
Australia
Ireland
United
Kingdom
Germany
Nigeria
Pakistan
Kenya
Bangladesh
China
Cameroon
Venezuela
Russia/USSR
India
Indonesia
Philippines
Uganda
Columbia
Others(b)
(from less to more corrupt)
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
Israel
United States
Austria
Japan
Hong Kong
France
Belgium
Chile
Portugal
South Africa
Poland
Czech
Republic
Malaysia
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
South Korea
Greece
Taiwan
Jordan
Hungary
Spain
Turkey
Italy
Argentina
Bolivia
Thailand
Mexico
Ecuador
Brazil
Egypt
a. As Transparency International makes clear, these rankings cannot be construed as saying
that Nigeria is the most corrupt country in the world. The rankings are subjective assessments of businessmen and others; they do not include all forms of corruption and they include only 54 countries. The most and least corrupt are those countries that are more than
one standard deviation (2.6) from the mean (5.35) of the sample.
b. The list of other countries is divided at the mean of the sample (5.35 on a 0 to 10 scale)
Source: TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL, The TI CorruptionPerceptionIndex 1996, in THE
FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION: IS THE TIDE NOW TURNING: TI ANNUAL REPORT (1997), also
availableat <http://www.gwdg.de/-uvw/rank-96.html>.
The Problem of Corruption: A Tale of Two Countries
18:524 (1998)
Table 2: Comparative Indicators for Kenya and Uganda
Kenya
Uganda
4.2
1.4
3.1
6.6
$280
$1,380
$240
$1,470
Average Annual growth (percent):
0.1
2.7
Distribution of income:
Share of income of lowest 20%
Share of income of highest 20%
3.4
62.1
6.8
48.1
Average annual change in gross domestic investment (percent):
1980-1990
1990-1995
0.8
0.0
9.6
7.9
Aggregate net resource flows (percent of GNP):
1980
1995
8.8
5.6
8.9
10.1
Net private capital flows (million dollars):
1980
1995
301
-42
44
112
Average annual GNP growth (percent):
1980-1990
1990-1995
GNP per capita, 1995:
World Bank method
Purchasing power parity method
Source: THF WORLD BANK, WORLD DEVELOPMENT REPORT 1997 214-34 (Tables 1, 3, 5, 11)
(1997).
Northwestern Journal of
International Law & Business
18:524 (1998)
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